‘Bruce Pearson: Free Getaways’ at Ronald Feldman Gallery

Bruce Pearson, 'Contains real hard won insights,' 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery)

Bruce Pearson, ‘Contains real hard won insights,’ 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery)

Bruce Pearson’s system is most transparent in a painting called And who hasn’t dreamed of growing up to become a princess 1. A 6-by-8-foot sheet of Styrofoam is divided into a grid of 18-by-24 boxes, over which the title phrase is drawn in wavy letters. Then all the lines are cut with a hot wire cutter, and every other piece is removed and affixed to a thick backing of more Styrofoam. After digging irregular pits into the protruding pieces, always leaving their edges intact, Mr. Pearson paints each little section a separate color. (The lush, dizzying palette of And who hasn’t dreamed brings to mind a circus operated by the occultist A.E. Waite.) From right in front, the bumps, chasms and undulations, all bright as silk and glossy as a new car, defy your urge to grasp the whole at once; but from across the room, you can still make out the text.

More often, though, Mr. Pearson builds his patterns by overlapping multiple layers of thematically related image and text, and what sounds like an all-too-literal cataloging of influences results in a genuine feat of alchemy. The ingredients synthesize and disappear, but the all-or-nothing new whole they form is composed of resolutely autonomous segments that refuse to be summarized or looked at dishonestly. And they remain, despite the white highlights and black shadows created by their projections, paintings, creating impressions not of sculpted space but of supernaturally animated flatness.

Intoxicating flow, for example, in black, infra-purple and amphibious green, is so complex that its shapes read as texture. Life before during after, an opera of swooshes and spirals in a range of blue-green-tinged off-whites, is like watching the movements of ocean foam. And Clearing 80 to 90 entities that attached themselves to your endocrine system 18 lifetimes ago, a gorgeous tall gouache, is like reading a secret message at the bottom of a pool. (Through Nov. 16)